Tuesday, May 18, 2010

PA-12: Quick thoughts

Weather's looking good here. Maybe light showers in Greene County (at the far southwest corner of the state) before the polls close.

Earlier there was a report that 175 people double voted in one particular precinct. At this time that seems more like an honest mistake - Fayette County isn't really strong Critz territory.

I'll be slightly off for a few hours, tweeting what I can.

PA Unofficial Election Results

Figured I'd link this for those interested in watching as they come in.

Here are the PA-12 Special election results.

Legislative special elections: 20th(Allegheny County), 138th(Northampton), 147th(Montgomery).

Statewide primaries(governor, lt. governor, U.S. Senate).

U.S. Congress primaries.

PA Senate primaries.

PA Representative primaries.

Democratic state committee.

Republican state committee - may be an interesting write-in in this category :)

PA-12: Tim Burns votes

In Washington County, PA, there's a town with a distinctive name: Eighty-Four. This town's probably best known for its namesake lumber company.

This morning, though, Eighty-Four has gotten attention as the home of Tim Burns, probably the next congressman for the 12th district. Burns went to Wylandville Elementary School a few hours ago to cast his vote in today's primary and special election, accompanied by his sons and a gaggle of cheerful volunteers.

Burns is traveling throughout the sprawling district today rallying voters and volunteers.

More updates to follow. Stacy McCain should also be on the ground shortly in the district with his talents, and Brian O'Connor of Red Dog Report may have updates as well.

For some reason I can't get Twitter to open right now, but you can also watch the #PA12 hashtag if you aren't already.


What Midnight Blue said. And Red Dog Report. It's election day in PA. I'm off to the polls in a minute myself.

Don't know where your polling place is? Find it here!

PA-4: VERY last minute candidate interviews

Yeah, I know. The primaries in PA are today. I almost literally ran into Mary Beth Buchanan last night, though, and asked her a few questions. Please forgive me my imperfections with the camera:

Later in the evening I talked with Keith Rothfus on the phone:

Cross-posted to RedState and PAWatercooler.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

PA-4: What if Mary Beth Buchanan held a press conference...

and the majority of the local press apparently didn't think she said anything newsworthy?

Buchanan promised a "significant campaign announcement", which turned out to be simply an accusation that her GOP primary opponent Keith Rothfus voted as a Democrat throughout the 1990s. Interestingly enough, county election officials promptly refuted that claim:

Republican congressional candidate Mary Beth Buchanan accused her primary challenger Friday of voting as a Democrat throughout the 1990s, but election officials said the data she used is unreliable.


At a news conference this morning outside the County Office Building, Downtown, Buchanan's aides handed out a printout of Rothfus' voting history. The printout shows that Rothfus registered as a Democrat in 1990 and voted in 18 elections as a Democrat before voting in the 2004 general election as a Republican.

"What I learned is that (Rothfus) wasn't just trying to hide his lack of experience, but that he was hiding that he was a registered Democrat for 13 years," Buchanan said.

But Mark Wolosik, head of the Allegheny County Elections Department, said the party history data is unreliable because the county switched computer systems in August 2003. Whatever party the person was registered as at that time was assigned as the party for all previous elections.

WPXI reported this announcement as well, but at last check KDKA, WTAE, and the Post-Gazette didn't mention this "significant campaign announcement" at all.

Not that they're, of course, the only local media.

Cross-posted to PAWatercooler.

Update: Tim McNulty of the Post-Gazette advises that he did indeed write a blog post and a regular article on Buchanan's press conference.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Folks driving 300+ miles to support Tim Burns

Late on a Friday night at Burns campaign headquarters in Washington, PA, the campaigning continues. These enthusiastic volunteers are sparing no effort to get the votes for Tim on Tuesday.

Danielle, Kyle, and Alex doing their part to get out the vote:

George Faulds is gushing with enthusiasm for Tim:

Allison Gilliland, and Brad Marston, who took time out of his own campaign to drive to Washington and make calls for Tim Burns:
Duste Craig drove all the way from Baltimore:

Simply an outstanding effort, just like many other folks in Johnstown have been doing.

Cross-posted to RedState.

Quick PA-12 update

Right now I'm at Burns for Congress HQ with Robert Stacy McCain, Brian O'Connor, and John LaRosa.

Scott Brown's event went well. Check out Stacy's coverage here.

I've never heard of anything like a local TV station pulling a campaign ad for factual inaccuracy. Wow.

The Susquehanna poll that Neil Stevens mentioned isn't anything to fret too much about. Folks I talked to from the Burns campaign weren't stressing over it when I stopped by his HQ yesterday. It's a close race and GOP folks need to work our asses off calling and canvassing this weekend, but you absolutely should not make any conclusions, inferences, or judgments based on that poll.

I've called and e-mailed the Russell campaign asking for them to reply to this question. Haven't got a personal reply, but they have sent out an (incredibly unenthusiastic) e-mail urging their supporters to vote Burns in the special and Russell in the primary. About the best they'll do I suppose.

Can't say enough how important it is to support any GOP candidate against a Dem.

Cross-posted to RedState

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Interesting observations about offended Muslims and car bombs

I've come across two interesting articles pertaining to the recent South Park depiction of Muhammad and the possibly-related Times Square bombing attempt.

First is this Time piece on what the damage would have been had Faisal Shahzad's bomb worked as intended:
If the bomb planted in a green 1993 Nissan Pathfinder SUV on the evening of May 1 had exploded, here's what would have happened, according to retired New York police department bomb-squad detective Kevin Barry. The car would have turned into a "boiling liquid explosive." The propane tanks that the bomb comprised would have overheated and ignited into "huge blowtorches" that could have been ejected from the vehicle. The explosion, lasting only a few seconds, would have created a thermal ball wide enough to swallow up most of the intersection. A blast wave would have rocketed out in all directions at speeds of 12,000 to 14,000 ft. per sec. (3,700 to 4,300 m per sec.); hitting the surrounding buildings, the wave would have bounced off and kept going, as much as nine times faster than before. Anyone standing within 1,400 ft. (430 m) — about five city blocks — of the explosion would have been at risk of being hit by shrapnel and millions of shards of flying glass. The many who died would not die prettily. A TIME reporter familiar with the ravages of car bombs in Baghdad describes how victims appeared to be naked because a fireball melted their clothing onto the surface of their skin.

Next, a fascinating article from Raymond Ibrahim at Pajamas Media, on an Arabic satellite TV station that regularly goes a bit beyond simply depicting an image of Muhammad. Worth your while to read in full, but here's the first couple of paragraphs:
Which is more likely to elicit an irate Muslim response: 1) public cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, or 2) public proclamations that Muhammad was a bisexual, sometime transvestite and necrophile, who enjoyed sucking on the tongues of children, commanded a woman to “breastfeed” an adult man, and advised believers to drink his urine for salutary health?

Based on the recent South Park fiasco — where an animated episode depicting Muhammad in a bear suit sparked outrage among various Muslim groups, culminating with the usual death threats — the answer is clear: cartoons, once again, have proven to be the Muslim world’s premiere provocateur. Indeed, just yesterday, during a university lecture, Swedish artist Lars Vilks, whose life is in jeopardy due to his depiction of Muhammad as a dog, was violently assaulted to undulations of “Allahu Akbar!” (Islam’s primordial war cry).

Ibrahim goes on to describe how the Arabic-language satellite channel makes such statements about Muhammad on a weekly basis, and faces far less threatening behavior than Western cartoonists get now. Amazing what happens when you stand up for yourself, isn't it?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mike Pence comes to PA-12 to support Burns

Congressman Pence, chair of the House Republican Conference, who's been mentioned as a potential 2012 presidential candidate was at the Richland Township Fire Department near Johnstown yesterday, campaigning for Tim Burns in the May 18 special election.

A quick aside: I don't know if it strikes anyone as strange to see a political event held at a fire station, but volunteer fire companies in Pennsylvania are a unique institution - so much so that a common joke says "You know you're from PA when you can say 'firehall wedding reception' with a straight face". Yes, I've been to several, and Googling the term shows there's more than a grain of truth in that joke.

Back to the event: Pence is a fantastic speaker, and by all accounts the crowd left this event with even more motivation to send a message to the rest of the country in this important election.

Mike Pence and Tim Burns share a word after the rally

After leaving Richland, I went down the road to the Burns' Victory Office, set up in the Cambria County GOP headquarters.

Inside was a warm, welcoming environment, a far cry from my previous experience at a phone bank (making calls for McCain in '08 in an office 4 or 5 times as big, with bare walls, dozens of unmanned phones, and a palpable lack of enthusiasm. And fewer people there during evenings than were calling for Tim Burns on a weekday afternoon.)

Burns for Congress campaign manager Tad Rupp told me that the campaign made close to 50,000 phone calls last weekend alone.

Among those making calls was Tim Burns's aunt, Melanie Cowan, who said she's been there at least every other day for the past month:

This coming weekend, according to Rupp, is "the most important weekend before November" for the U.S. House, and if you're interested in making calls yourself, the Burns campaign has offices in Greensburg, Washington (PA), and Johnstown. You can make calls from home as well. as well.

PA-4: "He has been outworking her"

The quote is from Jason Altmire, incumbent Democrat in the 4th Congressional District, referring to GOP primary candidates Keith Rothfus and Mary Beth Buchanan. (H/T PA2010.com.) This is an interesting matchup:
Party strategists list Buchanan among the marquee candidates they've attracted around the country.

But Rothfus, 48, of Edgeworth won't go away. He raised twice as much money as Buchanan last month -- $30,400 to her $14,400 -- and got support from Melissa Hart, the last Republican to hold the seat. And he attracted at least one unlikely compliment.

"He has been outworking her," said Rep. Jason Altmire, the McCandless Democrat they're trying to replace. Altmire is unopposed in the May 18 primary.

Buchanan, as the U.S. Attorney for the past 8 years, has much better name recognition, but Rothfus is convincing many, including Glen Meakem, that he's the better conservative candidate to take on Altmire, who may have the most credible "centrist" claims of any House Democrat.

Cross-posted to PAWatercooler.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

PA-12: More on Critz' highly elastic claims

Continuing on this post, discussing the latest ad from the Critz campaign, and the very, very indirect attacks on Tim Burns. The claim:

Tim Burns laid off his own workers in PA, and got tax breaks for outsourcing

Critz's camp cites this article from the Pittsburgh Business Times to show Burns's "indifference" to the prospect of layoffs at the company he founded. The "incriminating" quote:

Tim Burns, TechRx co-founder and vice president of product innovation, said the transaction is good news for the company and its investors. He said there may be a few layoffs in Pittsburgh because of consolidation of like business units, but he doesn't expect a major staff reduction.

"NDC acquired the business because they like what we're doing, not to completely disrupt it," Mr. Burns said.

It's worth noting also that any layoffs would have been done by the buyer NDC, and not by Tim Burns himself.

This article in the Post-Gazette, also cited by the Critz campaign as "proof" of Tim Burns-related job losses in western PA, reads as follows:

According to 2003 filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission -- first researched by the DCCC -- by NDC Health, the company that bought TechRx, the merger resulted in the elimination of 58 management jobs companywide. It's unclear how many of these jobs were in Western Pennsylvania, as the company had operations in Atlanta; Dallas; Birmingham, Ala.; Rockville, Md.; and Vancouver as well, Burns campaign spokesman Kent Gates said. But Gates, though he didn't have specific figures, said the operations in Moon near the Pittsburgh International Airport actually grew after the merger.(Emphasis added.)

The last claim, that Burns personally benefitted from outsourcing jobs, is supposedly shown by this article from The Hill:

Burns was an executive at NDCHealth Corp. from January to June 2003 after the company bought his start-up business, TechRx.

NDCHealth coordinates the flow of information between pharmacies, insurance companies, doctors and hospitals, according to a company release. It does business internationally and during the time Burns worked there the profit it made overseas was classifies as a "deferred tax liability."

In 2003, the company took in close to $407 million in revenue in the United States and $21 million abroad, according to its Securities and Exchange Commission filing. It paid a total of $1.55 million in taxes -- 40 percent of which was at the foreign tax rate of 1.2 percent as opposed to the 35 percent federal statutory rate.

Democrats argue that this means Burns was condoning the use of a tax "loophole."

This accusation is more plausible than the others at first glance, but like the claim that Tim Burns himself laid people off, it's faulty unless Tim Burns can be blamed for absolutely anything that NDC did. Two details worth noting here:

  • There's no hint that what NDC did was illegal. Tax mitigation strategies do not constitute tax evasion, and in my opinion it's foolish to blame a corporation (or an individual, for that matter) for minimizing their tax burden. If it's in fact too easy to classify income as "foreign", then the burden is on Congress to fix that, as they've done before with other "loopholes".
  • The Pittsburgh Business Times article linked above mentions this fact: "NDCHealth plans to acquire the remaining interest in TechRx in May 2003 if certain business objectives are met." Given that and the fact that Tim Burns left the company in June 2003, it seems far more likely that he was overseeing details related to the merger than planning tax mitigation.

The substance of these claims is further refuted by this letter from a former employee of TechRx, the company that Burns founded:

I don’t know where Mark Critz is getting his information about Tim Burns, but people need to know that a lot of it is just plain WRONG.

I worked for the company that Tim Burns started, and I never saw any form of outsourcing to foreign companies. In fact, when I started at TechRx, there were fewer than 30 employees; by the time I left in 2002, the company had grown to more than 400 employees. Tim sold the company to the larger corporation that helped fund that growth. And that “growth” meant jobs for Pittsburghers!

Eight years have passed since I left Tim’s company and I am still working on and supporting “his” software at another company (a mail service pharmacy that is a former client of Tim’s pharmacy software company). In fact, Tim’s statement that he created 400 jobs is actually an understatement because many more jobs resulted, both from the sale of the company and the sale of the source code to former clients.

Tim is a person of high integrity and knows what it takes to build businesses and create jobs. He is the kind of intelligent, non-career politician that we need in Washington to begin to change the irresponsible overspending and redistribution of wealth mentality that exists there now. If I lived in his district, I would, without a doubt, vote for him.

Dr. Diana L. Repack (and Dr. William F. Repack)

Former TechRx employee (1998-2002)

Moon Township, PA

Cross-posted to PAWatercooler.

PA-12: Is Mark Critz a fan of Spandex?

Mark Critz seems to have an affinity for Spandex, with the stretching claims he makes in this ad:

Looking at this a claim at a time:

Burns wants to privatize Medicare and Social Security

Critz's claimed sources for this? The fact that the House Conservatives Fund has endorsed Burns, and Burns' claims in a candidate forum on April 28.

This is dubious as a source in the first place, and Critz doesn't even try to claim that Burns explicitly endorsed everything the HCF stands for. But suppose Tim Burns gave up thinking on his own entirely, and taken every single position of his directly from this organization endorsing him? Here's what the House Conservatives Fund's own website has to say about Social Security. Doesn't sound like privatization to me:

House conservatives tend to understand that Social Security provides a critical foundation of income for retired and disabled workers. Social Security is safe for today's seniors. However, the government does not save our Social Security taxes for future retirees. Congress borrows this extra money and uses it to make up for deficits elsewhere in the budget. Thus the Social Security trust fund contains nothing but IOUs the government has written to itself. For this reason, House conservatives should be encouraged to act now to seriously investigate long-term, structural reforms to Social Security.

And on Medicare:
Improving our nation's health care system is a priority for all American families. House Conservatives support competitive reforms designed to lower costs and ensure quality access to care. Policies that will increase competition and individual choice in the healthcare marketplace are essential in achieving greater efficiency and eliminating the rising costs of healthcare. It should not be the goal of government to subsidize health care but to seek solutions that will reduce the costs of procedures, consultations and medications.

Medicare is a vital program for America's elderly and disabled citizens. We believe in working hard to secure the program's future while strengthening the program to better meet the changing needs of today. House Conservatives are committed to securing adequate and affordable health care for seniors while stabilizing the burden placed on the American taxpayer

As for the April 28 forum? Here's the specific question Critz is alluding too, and Burns' answer. You be the judge if he supports privatization:

More to follow on the other claims made in this ad.

Cross-posted to PAWatercooler.

UPDATE(10:07PM): Critz also claimed that Tim Burns wants to "cut guaranteed benefits", citing the same sources. As with the claim of privatization made above, the sources don't support that claim.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Has Peg Luksik ever actually won an election?

Just curious, but I'm pretty sure the answer's no. She's like the Harold Stassen of PA local politics. She's, uh, challenging Pat Toomey in the Senate primary on May 18.

I thought of that question after reading the last quote in that interview:
Toomey is considered the front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination, with the May 18 winner to face either Democrat Rep. Joe Sestak or Sen. Arlen Specter in the fall.

An April Quinnipiac University poll incorrectly said that Toomey was running unopposed.

Luksik said that many Republicans were "very insulted" by the oversight.

"It's like the moguls have decided for them," she said.

Despite the omission, Luksik said she would continue to run her campaign in her own style.

"It's quiet in that it's a people's campaign," she said. "I've always campaigned that way. No one sees me coming until Election Day."

We'll see. I wonder if she would have more of a chance if she wasn't also managing Bill Russell's campaign. Or what that would do for Russell, for that matter.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Post-Gazette endorses Burns, Bucchanieri in the PA-12 primaries

From yesterday's editorial page. The key stuff:

Mr. Bucchianeri sees his lack of a government career as a plus and believes he can bring new energy and fresh perspective to the office. While both candidates were well-informed, Mr. Bucchianeri was direct and straightforward in his answers, while Mr. Critz, on controversial topics, was hedged and cautious. Ryan Bucchianeri may be the underdog in this matchup, but he has earned the Post-Gazette endorsement.

On the GOP primary:
Mr. Burns has the backing of party officials in the primary and is advertising heavily to make his candidacy known. Mr. Russell, at last report, raised more money but is waging a less visible campaign. That suggests Tim Burns would make a stronger candidate for the party in the fall, and on that basis he has earned the Post-Gazette endorsement.

I'd add too that Burns was chosen over Russell by almost 2/3 of the GOP conferees from PA-12, all of whom reside in the district.

Cross-posted to PAWaterCooler.

Michael Bloomberg and Contessa Brewer are idiots

Contessa Brewer was "hoping [the Times Square bomber] was not going to be anybody with ties to any kind of Islamic country."
Brewer continued, "...There are a lot of people who want to use terrorist intent to justify writing off people who believe in a certain way or come from certain countries or whose skin color is a certain way. I mean they use it as justification for really outdated bigotry."

The News live host didn't explain which ethnicity or religion she had been hoping the bomber would have been affiliated with. She did defensively mention members of a Michigan militia group arrested in March and asserted that they were "from far different backgrounds than what this guy is coming from."

On the positive side, MSNBC didn't try to edit bombing suspect Faisal's ethnicity or religion like they did to show this "white" guy with a gun "threatening" the president last year. Take a wild guess which anchor was involved there.

In other out of touch elitist news, Michael Bloomberg made this stunningly accurate guess into the bomber's motives as well:

“If I had to guess, 25 cents, I would guess exactly that. Somebody whose homegrown maybe a mentally deranged person or somebody with a political agenda that doesn’t like the health care bill or something.”

Good guess.

Victor Davis Hanson asks the question that those who share the Vision of The Anointed can't bear to: "Is there a pattern here?"

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Times Square bombing suspect arrested

MSNBC reports:

NEW YORK - Authorities arrested a suspect in the attempted weekend car bombing in Times Square, NBC News' justice correspondent Pete Williams reported early Tuesday morning.

A U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, Shahzad Faisal, was arrested Monday night on Long Island, Williams reported.

Earlier, an official told The Associated Press that the potential suspect recently traveled to Pakistan. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the case was at a sensitive stage.

If you haven't read much on this yet, the above MSNBC link is pretty good background.

My thoughts?

1. The fact that the truck was parked at the front door of the Viacom building (Viacom owns Comedy Central) should strongly suggest, to anyone with a modicum of sense, that the recent South Park controversy might have had something to do with this.

2. Ayaan Hirsi Ali's warning against dismissing the threats of "nobodies" was spot-on.

3. I wonder if the idea of blaming "Hateful Racist Teabaggers" for violence will be slowed down at all by the arrest of a perp from a country that's 96% Muslim?

4. No one should take that much comfort in this guy's incompetence. All he needed was a little bit more skill with detonators to succeed in his mission, and then you'd have hundreds of dead New Yorkers.

5. If he bought the SUV before the South Park episodes aired (the MSNBC article describes it as "weeks ago", which doesn't make this clear) then what other targets did he have in mind?

UPDATE(1): Melissa Clouthier posts more details and analysis.

UPDATE(2): Dan Riehl suggests Faisal may have been selling real-estate on Craigslist.

UPDATE(3): And The Other McCain, with the fantastic title "NYC Bomb Suspect Faisal Shahzad Arrested at JFK; Glenn Beck Still at Large"

Monday, May 03, 2010

Russell campaign coordinating with PACs?

From National Journal via Dan Riehl:

A political action committee connected to a controversial GOP consulting firm is running ads on behalf of one of the firm's major clients, raising questions about coordination between groups that are required by law to operate independently of each other.

The PAC, Freedom's Defense Fund, is running an ad on behalf of Iraq war veteran William Russell (R), the '08 GOP nominee against Rep. John Murtha (D). Though he raised and spent nearly $3.5M, Russell was not the party's choice to run for Murtha's seat when the long-time Congressman passed away earlier this year.

Instead, PA GOPers picked businessman Tim Burns (R) to carry their standard in the May 18 special election. But that wasn't the end of Russell's hopes; May 18 is also the date of the regularly scheduled primary, in which Russell is competing against Burns.

The competitive primary could put Burns in an awkward position of having to defend his right flank while simultaneously appealing to the Dem voters in the overwhelmingly Dem district as he faces a special election and a primary on the same day. Russell, after all, has been on a ballot before; he won 42% of the vote against Murtha in '08.

Enter Freedom's Defense Fund, which late last week dropped $20K into an ad buy on Russell's behalf. The ad calls Russell a "true conservative," a "tireless campaigner" and a "proven fundraiser."

Freedom's Defense Fund, a PAC founded just before the '04 elections, lists as its address in the ad the same downtown DC address as Base Connect, a GOP direct-mail firm that has helped Russell raise millions through direct mail solicitations.

More on this to come.

Cross-posted to RedState.

Horrible Skittles commercial

Randomly stumbled across this. It's kind of making me hungry for some, just because I haven't had any in a while, but updating the tragic tale of Midas doesn't seem like a good way to sell anything, really: